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Syncope is the medical word for fainting or passing out caused by a drop in blood pressure. It is common in older children and teens. The reason typically is a temporary lack of oxygen-rich blood reaching the brain. The decreased blood flow to the brain can have a range of causes, most of them harmless. However, sometimes syncope in children can be a symptom of a serious heart condition.
The board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the experience and skills to diagnose the cause of syncope in children and provide care for any underlying heart condition.
Norton Children’s has a network of outreach diagnostic and treatment services conveniently located throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Depending on what causes a child to faint, these are some common symptoms of syncope that could happen before loss of consciousness:
Fainting or syncope in otherwise healthy children does not automatically mean a heart condition is to blame. However, even harmless loss of consciousness can cause problems. A child can get hurt during a fall after fainting or stop playing sports due to worry over fainting.
The most common reason a healthy child or teen may be dizzy or faint when standing is that the nervous system gets its signals crossed and doesn’t coordinate the blood vessels and heart like it should. In some people, this cross-firing may be triggered by things such as:
When not related to a heart condition, syncope also may be called:
Most people who have these types of syncope don’t get dizzy or pass out every single time they experience a trigger. Instead, they often have good days (when they have minimal symptoms) and bad days (when they have more dizziness, fatigue, fainting and afternoon headaches).
Numerous kinds of congenital heart defects can cause syncope, including those that interfere with normal contractions or pumping of the heart, such as:
Conditions in which a normal heart rhythm is disrupted can cause children to faint as well, including:
Your pediatrician may refer your child to the specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute if there is a family history of congenital heart disease, inherited arrhythmia or cardiomyopathy. Or your child may be referred to a pediatric cardiologist due to:
During an appointment with a Norton Children’s Heart Institute cardiologist, the physician will:
Tests may include:
Syncope not related to a heart condition usually can be treated by paying close attention to triggers, proper nutrition and behavior. Suggested treatments to improve symptoms and reduce the chance of future episodes may include:
Children who continue to have symptoms after these treatments may benefit from one or more medications (for example, fludrocortisone, midodrine, beta blockers or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRI] agents). The good news is that this condition is usually temporary. Most children and teens eventually outgrow it.
Children who have syncope due to a congenital heart defect or disease will need treatment based on their specific heart condition. The Norton Children’s Heart Institute team can help develop a treatment plan that is unique for each child, which may include treatments such as catheter ablation, placement of a pacemaker or cardioverter-defibrillator, or heart surgery.